Smokey City: Industrialization in North and South

By S. R.

Important Meeting of Smoke Makers

During the nineteenth century, England experienced the Industrial Revolution. This meant that an enormous amount of smoke surrounded London, which prompted illness for those that were surrounded by it daily, as can be expected.

The source I chose that portrayed the Industrial Revolution is from Punch, a satirical magazine. This particular article was published in 1853 entitled “Important Meeting of Smoke Makers,” and it satirizes people that ignored the smoke in London because the smoke was produced by industrialization. The image above the article shows gentlemen with smoke coming out of the top of their heads, which are shaped like industrial chimneys. This picture portrays the smoke as part of those that worked in industries. The picture is dark and the facial expressions of the workers are upset, demonstrating the negative aspects of the smoke. The article is extremely satirical, claiming that “The philosopher had accompanied this statement by a declaration that he, for his part, liked the smoke as a perfume” and that smoke was shown to have curative and antiseptic properties (Anon 80). This article satirized smoke as being positive, thus portraying industrialization as positive and, in doing so, completely neglecting the negative effects of the smoke. Although “Important Meeting of Smoke Makers” has a light tone to it, the thoughts it expresses are not necessarily light, as the Victorians believed that toxic air could cause serious illness. Because this article is satirical, the approach the article actually has towards the smoke is negative, and uses humour to prove that ignoring the smoke is ridiculous.

The article satirizes people like Mrs. Thornton because she thinks that the smoke is valuable for Milton. More specifically, she looks past the smoke and believes that industrialization benefits Milton and her family. Industrialization brands her son “respected amongst all men of business”, and therefore the smoke is of little consequence to her (Gaskell 114). Mrs. Thornton “does not feel that [her] very natural liking of the place [she] was born and brought up… requires any accounting for” (Gaskell 98). However, as we see in the novel, smoke causes illness, specifically Mrs. Hale’s. Mrs. Hale’s illness shows the direct causation between smoke and illness. She says that she got ill because she was “taken away from Helstone, to [an] unhealthy, smoky, sunless place” (Gaskell 202). Frederick also addresses this theme when he says “Why did my Father leave Helstone?” (Gaskell 244). Mrs. Hale and her family believe that the smoke caused her illness. This shows the harm that smoke can cause to those surrounded by it. The article and the novel bring attention to the detrimental effects of industrialization, specifically smoke, and address the people in England that were unable to view the smoke for these detrimental facts.

Milton being an industrial town embodies the ideas of the industrialization; it was good for some people and awful for others. Industrialization allowed Britain to advance in modernization; however, the article and novel argue that industrialization made Britain take a step back in human rights. There were those in London, like Mrs. Thornton that were able to look past the smoke, but there were those like Mrs. Hale that would get sick from the toxic air. Overall, both articles address the same issue; the concerns of London’s safety that industrialization caused.

Works Cited

Anon. “Important Meeting of Smoke Maker” Punch XXV. 1853. 80. Print.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. Ed. By Patricia Ingham. London: Penguin Group. 1995. Print

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